Girls and Rape

Let’s be honest, no one wants to talk about rape. Except those of us who want to talk about it because it’s clearly still something that we need to be talking about. Even then, I don’t want to talk about it, because I wish it wasn’t something we still need to discuss.

I talk about rape because it baffles me that we are still stuck debunking and ending the perpetuation of stereotypes surrounding women who are raped. We still hear the jokes on television, we still hear the men, and even women in our life talk about how a victim dressed a certain way, or drank too much alcohol. We hear of towns supporting a group of boys who gang raped a girl at a party. We read about women who call other women sluts, and want to take away other reproductive freedoms because only sluts have sex.

Yet, somehow, our culture doesn’t seem to get how deeply disturbed we are when it comes to the realities of rape. Which made me wonder, on Sunday, as I watched the episode of Girls entitled, On All Fours, how many people would not have realized that the final scene in the episode was date rape. That as the episode was playing, that very scenario was playing out all over the world, in bedrooms of married couples, of people who had just been on a date, and believed it was going well. Until it just wasn’t going well any longer.

At the end of the episode, we have Adam and his new girlfriend, Natalia, in his dark, dirty apartment. You can see her face, judging the way he lives, and still trying to remain positive about it, about him. I’m sure if this was a book, the narrator would have noted that Natalia  felt that push to remove herself from the apartment. That sinking pit in her stomach, telling her she wasn’t safe. I know I felt it in my gut.

Suddenly, we’re watching a scene that startled many, confused others, and made others laugh (yes, because rape is funny still. Ask Seth MacFarlane). Some would argue that it was just a really uncomfortable situation and that it was just a lack of communication, that it was just Adam and his awkwardness. Here’s the thing, guys: It was rape.  Also, guess what?  Rape is highly uncomfortable to talk about, watch or even hear about because it’s discussing the way another human being violated another. It’s not going to be a happy discussion, just in case anyone was unsure.

When a woman says no, even if the words aren’t “no”, it means it’s time to stop. Natalia’s muttering as she was forced to crawl through Adam’s dark, disgusting hallway, him leering at her as the predator he was. And then her protests that she didn’t want him to do certain things, and her body language. She couldn’t seem to get the words out, because she likely had no idea what was happening. There was the rigid sex, where you can tell from her body alone that she’s not even in that moment anymore. As if he hadn’t humiliated her enough, he chooses to remove himself and ejaculate all over her breasts.

Image courtesy of HBO

That’s how rape is. One minute everything is okay, and the next you are a rape victim, wondering how to find your voice, and be able to get out of the situation before you fall apart completely. You stop thinking. You just start moving, even when you aren’t moving. You are running away from that moment in your head so fast, trying to separate yourself from being one of those girls.

One of those girls who has been raped.

There are those who are arguing that it was not rape because she we didn’t hear the actual word, “no”. During that scene, we don’t hear her say, “Adam, I don’t want you to do this to me”. 

No, she didn’t say no. But she did say she didn’t like several things he was doing. As it was pointed out above, that should be enough to know to stop. When you are forcing your partner into a situation that they vocally seem uncomfortable with, you are crossing lines. And this in particular scene, when you watched it, you knew it was wrong, it was not sexy, and it was humiliating.

Rape doesn’t always look like rape. The movies, the media, even stories make us believe that rape only happens in a dark alley, and then our perpetrator takes off into the dead of night. No, that is not always how rape happens.

My ex-husband raped me on multiple occasions. Sometimes, I did say no, and sometimes I had to physically attempt to remove myself. Sometimes, I just shut my mouth, and mentally removed myself from the situation, crying silently until it was over. I never told anyone because I knew that most people would tell me that you cannot be raped by someone you are married to or in a relationship with.

It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t fucking matter. Do you hear me? 

It doesn’t matter what sort of relationship you are in. If you indicate that you are not okay with the situation, then it means it’s not consensual. Sometimes, when you are in that situation, it all happens so fast, and you can’t seem to figure out how to make it stop. It’s still rape.

Instead of seeing a dark, pieced together scene, we witnessed what rape can actually look like, after a date, after a couple of drinks. That rape is not always with a stranger, or some jacked up criminal. Sometimes, the rapist is a face we know. Someone we trust. Someone we actually loved.

My favorite, if I can even use that word when discussing this subject, is how Dunham had two incredibly awful situations play out before our eyes.We watched as Hannah, Dunham’s character continued to struggle with OCD, to the point where she shoved a Q-Tip in her eardrum in an effort to clean her insides out. You know that what she is doing to herself is wrong, and want to tell her to stop. Then, we have the same situation with Adam. You know what he is doing is wrong, and you want to tell Natalia to pick herself up and get out of there, right now.

All of this made me wonder which of the two scenes made viewers more uncomfortable, and if that was the point of showing the two scenes side by side. Was it the girl knowing that she was doing something terribly wrong to her body, but unable to help it because of OCD, or the boy knowing he was doing something terribly wrong to another person’s body, but not stopping because he just didn’t want to?

Perhaps that’s what she was going for. The juxtapose between the two situations, when you think you should take it just a little further, and then, of course, the damage it does when you cross that line.

That’s rape. You know you shouldn’t do it, and yet you do it, because it feels good. Because you want to prove a point. Because she was wearing a sexy outfit. Because you had too much to drink. Because she had too much to drink. Because she kissed you earlier. Because you want her to know you are in charge. Because you just didn’t know how to stop.  Because you know that you can just tell people that she’s lying, that she is a slut, and they will believe you. Because you are a man.

It doesn’t matter what your excuses are for raping, or for sexually assaulting a person. Rape is rape, even when it doesn’t look like it could be. 

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